Category Archives: Theater

My father’s table saw

Table saw 3by Stephen Sachs

This is the story of a table saw. A steel-framed Sears Craftsman table saw manufactured when things were built to last. My father bought the saw more than fifty years ago,  when he was forty-three, to cut lumber at the new home he had just bought in Westlake Village for his young family. The table saw now sits in the parking lot of the Fountain Theatre, worn-out and rusting, like a broken-down Oldsmobile.  

My dad was a newsman in 1967. He was a logical thinker, deliberate. He wore a suit jacket and tie when he went to the CBS newsroom in Los Angeles each morning. Smoked a pipe like network icon Walter Cronkite. Dad was a serious man with a dark furrowed brow who approached his duty as a journalist with somber dedication. On weekends, he was a different man.

Like most dads of that era, he liked tools. Hammers, screwdrivers, socket wrenches. On weekends, Dad eagerly drove our white station wagon to Sears in Woodland Hills to buy a glistening new set of socket wrenches or a new power drill. He dedicated an entire section of the garage to his tools and hardware, mounting hundreds of Craftsman gadgets and gizmos on the wall like shiny religious weaponry.  As a boy, I would stand in the dim garage alone and stare at the burnished tools. They held some kind of spell of magic to me because they drew so much of my father’s care and attention.  Each packet of screws, each mechanical device, each bundle of power cord was lovingly mounted in a logistical order that I recognized as my father’s sense of propriety.  It was on one of his weekend pilgrimages to Sears that he bought the table saw. 

Harvey Sachs Westlake Village building patio overhang

Harvey Sachs

My dad and that table saw labored hard in the hot Conejo Valley sun on weekends, building fences and benches for our home and the outdoor patio overhang  that circled our backyard. Dad huffed and puffed as he manhandled that table saw, his shirt off and bare chested, tiny chips of sawdust speckling the black hair on his chest and arms like  woody flakes of snow.  Who was this man? A clutch of roofing nails clenched in his teeth where, during the work week, a Dunhill pipe used to be. 

By the time I opened the Fountain Theatre, my dad had Parkinson’s disease. He could barely move or speak. He had stopped working for CBS News long before. He could no longer hold a pencil or lift a hammer. His shrine of carpentry tools in the garage stood silent,  dusty and untouched for years like an abandoned tomb. Except for that table saw. 

Somehow, in 1993, I lugged that heavy steel table saw from Westlake Village to the Fountain Theatre and presented it to my Technical Director. “This is my father’s saw,” I told him. It would now build our stage scenery. 

Table saw SS 2

Stephen Sachs, 2018

For the next twenty-five years, my father’s saw stood proud at the Fountain, cutting miles of lumber into thousands of pieces to build dozens of sets for so many of our plays. As Dad’s health declined his table saw powered on. Dad passed away in 1995. From that day forward, the scenery for every play I wrote and directed at the Fountain Theatre has been cut on my father’s table saw.

Until today.

The once hearty motor is now blown. Replacement parts have been discontinued years ago. It is done. The saw now stands forsaken in the Fountain parking lot waiting to be hauled to the dump. 

I swing my car into the lot as I arrive for work each morning. I park, hoist myself out of my Honda, walk to the front door. As I do, I cross the parking lot and shoot a glance at the table saw. And see my father. Bare-chested, happy and alive, pushing a two-by-four into the ever spinning blade. 

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre

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Free screening of classic romantic film ‘Brief Encounter’ at Fountain Theatre on Sept 22

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Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in “Brief Encounter”

The Fountain is presenting a free screening of the 1945 classic romantic film, Brief Encounter on Saturday, September 22 at 4:30pm. The screening is in conjunction with the Fountain’s current hit production, Arrival & Departure, which was inspired by the Noel Coward screenplay of the movie. Playwright/Director Stephen Sachs will introduce the film.

The screening will be fully captioned, accessible to all audiences.

When Time Out London recently polled 101 motion picture experts to select the 100 Best Romantic Films of all time, the panel voted Brief Encounter as #1, declaring it “the most romantic film ever made.” They’re not the only ones who think so. The Film Society of Lincoln Center named it “one of the most achingly romantic films ever made.”

Directed by David Lean and starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, Brief Encounter is a passionate film about a chance meeting, forbidden love, and finding one’s soul mate.

Brief Encounter is set during WWII in and around a London railway station. A married woman, with children, Laura (Celia Johnson), meets a stranger, a doctor (Trevor Howard) named Alec in the train station’s tea room, who kindly removes a piece of grit from her eye then leaves to catch his train. During her subsequent shopping trips every Thursday, Laura bumps into Alec and a friendship develops. Soon, the weekly meetings become an arranged rendezvous. Finally, they confess that they are deeply, overwhelmingly in love.

With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar), the film explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

“I was looking for a love story to inspire my new play,” explains Sachs, describing the origin of Arrival & Departure. “When I thought of Brief Encounter, with its journey of two strangers travelling from friendship into love, I knew I had found what I was looking for.”

Running time: 90 mins. Limited seating. Reservations necessary.  (323) 663-1525

Reserve Seats Now

Cast announced for West Coast Premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Cost of Living’ at Fountain Theatre

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Katy Sullivan

Katy Sullivan will reprise her off-Broadway role in the West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok‘s Pulitzer Prize winning drama Cost of Living at the Fountain Theatre. Her acclaimed 2017 performance as Ani at Manhattan Theatre Club earned Sullivan nominations for the Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League Award, and Outer Critic’s Circle Award.

Joining Sullivan in the Fountain Theatre production are Tobias Forrest  (Wisdom of the Crowd, Special Unit), Maurice G. Smith (Meet the Browns) and Xochitl Romero (Queens, La Jolla Playhouse). Eileen Grubba (Fear the Walking Dead) will understudy Ms Sullivan. John Vreeke directs.

Achingly human and surprisingly funny, Cost of Living is a haunting, rigorously unsentimental play about the forces that bring people together and the realities of facing the world with physical disabilities. Unemployed truck driver Eddie is struggling to rebuild a relationship with his estranged wife Ani, facing life in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury. Jess, in a job that she desperately needs, is trying to navigate her duties with John, her new boss with cerebral palsy. But, who is really caring for whom? By shattering stereotypes, the play reveals how deeply we all need each other. In addition to the  2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Cost of Living won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play.

Cost of Living opens at the Fountain Theatre October 20 and runs to December 16. Tickets go on sale September 12. More Info

Photos: Fountain Family cheers the home team at annual Dodgers Game Night

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Who says theatre nerds don’t like sports? Our annual Fountain Theatre Dodgers Game Night is a highly-anticipated event every year. Tuesday, a rowdy group of thirty Fountain Folk sat together at Dodger Stadium to cheer on The Boys in Blue. The cool summer night was perfect. While the Dodgers battled on the field for first place in the National League West, the rooting section of Fountain fans enjoyed cold beer and hot dogs and the joy of being together.

Most satisfying of all to the Fountain crew, the cross-country rivalry of New York versus Los Angeles as theatre towns was settled on the baseball field Tuesday night. The Dodgers beat the NY Mets 11-4. 

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Saif Saigol looks forward to opening eyes to the magic of theatre

Saif Saigol

by Saif Saigol

It’s the end of August – the time of year that’s defined by back-to-school sales, the switch from iced coffee to hot coffee, and that one last outing with white pants before Labor Day comes and goes. For me, this week signifies the end of my internship with The Fountain and my first experience living in LA. It occurred to me today that this time next year – for the first time ever – I won’t be preparing to go back to school, and I am reminiscent of my summer at The Fountain and all I have learned.

For the past 10 weeks, I have worked under Barbara Goodhill, The Fountain’s Director of Development, on a variety of projects related to The Fountain’s growth and community impact. As an avid lover of theater, and all other performance arts, this was my first experience working behind-the-scenes (or upstairs, in The Fountain’s case) at one of the desks that keep arts organizations like The Fountain running. I learned the ins and outs of fundraising and grant culture, and the realities of producing art in a country that loves creativity, but hesitates to support it. While it is somewhat disheartening to see all the hoops artists must jump through before being able to express themselves, there is redemption in knowing that organizations like The Fountain, and the foundations that support it, are committed to the arts and the roles arts play in connecting communities. I was able to experience this first-hand this summer, with The Fountain’s production of Arrival & Departure.

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur, Arrival & Departure.

Arrival & Departure is Stephen Sachs’ latest Deaf/Hearing play, inspired by the timeless romance film Brief Encounter. It was truly incredible to witness the level of finesse and intimacy the company was able to achieve in the short time between the beginning of the summer, when rehearsals began, and opening night 6 weeks later. Arrival & Departure is a masterpiece of intimate theatre, from the way it is written to present three distinct story-lines that harmoniously blend into one, to the actors’ ability to engage each other, engage the audience, and fill the room with their presence. Beyond the triumph of Arrival & Departure as a piece of theater, it was particularly meaningful for me to be able to interact with the Deaf community, who graciously opened their arms to us hearing folk and put in the labor to educate and accommodate us. It can only be described as powerful to sit in that theatre for 90 minutes, without one interpreter in sight, and watch Deaf and hearing actors alike (while sitting next to Deaf and hearing audience members alike) reveal their deepest emotions and vulnerabilities, whether through Spoken English, ASL, or movement. It is art in its rawest form, and really makes one wonder why all theater doesn’t strive for this level of accessibility and nuance. If you haven’t yet seen Arrival & Departure, get your tickets ASAP!! It’s a must-see.

One of my projects this summer was working with The Fountain’s Outreach Coordinator, Dionna Daniel, on various efforts to open our doors to the community. It was especially rewarding to give back to the community by way of arts education for LA’s youth. It was because of efforts like these several years ago that my eyes were opened to the magic of theater as a young student, and I’m honored to play a part in providing that experience for others.

Too often, I think, theatre and the arts are viewed as hobbies or simply a source of entertainment. This narrative fails to address that the arts play a unique role in fostering our ability as humans to feel empathy and be creative. In our increasingly polarized and divisive world, these qualities could not be more important. I’ve learned first-hand that is is essential for students to be exposed to the arts at a young age. The Fountain contributes to a movement that brings theatre to underserved groups and students, bridging the gap between communities and giving kids the tools to think outside the box. It was inspiring to be a part of this, and interact directly with some of the students served by The Fountain.

My time at The Fountain has taught me many things, from knowing how to dissect a 501(c)(3)’s 990-Form, to helping coordinate special events, to interacting with Hollywood managers and agents. The looming future of my career in the arts is now slightly less tinged with panic, and driven instead by excitement and confidence. I cannot thank The Fountain enough for welcoming me into their family, teaching me the ways of intimate theatre in Los Angeles, and giving me the tools to take command of my own career.

VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes look at acclaimed new play ‘Arrival & Departure’

The Fountain Theatre believes young people need access to the arts. Teens need to not only see art, they benefit from actively creating art themselves. That’s why the Fountain Theatre partnered with The Bresee Foundation to welcome three young women into the backstage rehearsal process for our acclaimed world premiere, Arrival & Departure. The result is this short film chronicling how the innovative hearing/Deaf production was created, told by the artists who created it.

The Bresee Foundation was founded in 1982, and has been providing quality after-school programs and family services to the public ever since. It battles poverty by empowering youth and families in Los Angeles with the skills, resources, and relationships necessary to thrive.  In Bresee’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center, students experiment, innovate, and create in their own time, on their own terms.

Bresee girls

Film makers Ariejoyee Carianga, Xeyla Huinac, and Ashley Polanco

This short film on Arrival & Departure was created by Ariejoyee Carianga, Xeyla Huinac, and Ashley Polanco. We enjoyed having these wonderful young women with us and are very proud of their short film. Enjoy!

NOW CASTING: Four roles (two disabled) for Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Cost of Living’ at Fountain Theatre

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Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. West Coast Premiere at the Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles.

STORYLINE: Achingly human and surprisingly funny, Cost of Living is a haunting, rigorously unsentimental play about the forces that bring people together and the realities of facing the world with physical disabilities. Unemployed truck driver Eddie is struggling to rebuild a relationship with his estranged wife Ani, recently wheelchair-bound with a spinal cord injury. Jess, in a job that she desperately needs, is trying to navigate her duties with John, her new boss with cerebral palsy. But, who is really caring for whom? By shattering stereotypes, the play reveals how deeply we all need each other.

SUBMIT ELECTRONICALLY TO: Stephen Sachs  casting@fountaintheatre.com
Submission Deadline: 08/24/2018

Producer/Theatre Company: Stephen Sachs, Fountain Theatre
Director: John Vreeke
Writer: Martyna Majok

Audition Date(s): 08/27/2018 – 08/29/2018
Rehearsal Date(s): 09/17/2018 – 10/16/2018
Preview Date(s): 10/17/2018 – 10/19/2018
Opening Date(s): 10/20/2018
Closing Date(s): 12/16/2018

4-show week. Performances Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm, Mondays 8pm.

Roles:

[EDDIE] 40 to 50 years old, Black/African American male. Ani’s ex-husband; an unemployed truck driver who doesn’t allow himself the luxury of self-pity; funny, engaging and playful; kind, would have made a great uncle for someone; working class, rough around the edges. Seeking actors of color for this role.

[ANI] Seeking an actress who is a wheelchair user or with mobility disability for this role. 35 to 45 years old, open ethnicity, female. Eddie’s ex-wife; working class from North Jersey; she has a spinal cord injury because of a recent car accident and now uses a wheelchair; quadriplegic, though has some function in one hand; intense and brusque; hilariously foulmouthed, it’s her way or the highway, and she won’t hesitate to tell you so; a strong sense of self; dry sense of humor. This role requires partial nudity. 

[JESS] 25 to 30 years old, ethnicity open, female. John’s new caregiver; down-to-earth, working class; first-generation from an immigrant family; went to Princeton but has fallen on hard times. Overworked, under- qualified, and nearly homeless, she has a lot of potential but is working three jobs and still living paycheck-to-paycheck; a tough cookie, skittish, perhaps a bit too quick to defend herself. Seeking actors of color for this role.

[JOHN] Seeking a disabled actor for this role. 25 to 30 years old, male. A good-looking and very intelligent doctoral student; has cerebral palsy; uses a wheelchair and requires the assistance of a part-time caregiver. A rich grad student at Princeton, has the confidence and polish of a guy who comes from money; quick witted with a blunt sense of humor; he has a slight speech impediment due to the tension of his cerebral palsy.  This role requires nudity. 

SUBMIT ELECTRONICALLY TO: Stephen Sachs  casting@fountaintheatre.com